Refugee Day: Time for host countries to introspect, says Archbishop Buti.
Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.
As South Africa joins the world in commemorating World Refugee Day, Archbishop Buti has said the day should be used to focus attention on the host country where refugees presently reside.
Acceptance and inclusivity
“Does the host country conform to the rights, or has it domesticated international law and practices of welcoming refugees and providing them with the necessary documents and means of survival? More importantly, has the domestication of international practices of welcoming and protecting refugees been accompanied by an equally vigorous promotion of the acceptance and inclusivity of refugees by the citizens of communities of the host country. Refugees have a right to seek employment in the host country,” said Archbishop Buti.
In South Africa, the Archbishop observed that refugees are often among foreign truck drivers who are harassed and violently prevented from carrying out their duties. “This violates their right to employment,” he said. He added, “In South Africa, this equally applies to refugees whose businesses are set alight during service delivery protests across the country.”
The scapegoating of refugees
Archbishop Buti further noted that refugees often become scapegoats for complex failures within local communities. They are then tagged with extremely harmful generalisations that put them in harm’s way.
“In South Africa, people on the move, without distinction if they are migrants and refugees, have experienced rejection, harsh treatment and being named ‘foreigners’ with negative connotations. They have been called ‘outsiders,’ the ‘unwanted’ even though some of them have been here since the dawn of the South African democracy, 27 years ago. They have been falsely accused of ‘stealing’ jobs that should be given to local people. When there are ‘service delivery’ protests, that is, violent complaints about the provision of water, electricity, housing, roads etc., people on the move become scapegoats. They bear the brunt of the anger of the local people. Their stores are often looted and even set alight. They are accused of selling drugs and are said to be involved in human trafficking,” said the prelate of Johannesburg.
Challenging countries that originate refugees
For Archbishop Buti, World Refugee Day is indeed a day for expressing solidarity with refugees, but it is also a time to remind the leadership of the countries of origin of the untold pain, suffering and even the untimely death of its citizens.
“While it is important to protect and improve the lives of refugees every single day, international days like World Refugee Day help the world focus global attention on the plight of those fleeing conflict or persecution,” he said.